I may not agree with what you say …

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated Friday night during the playing of the national anthem. He’s done so at other pre-season NFL games, but apparently this was the first time anyone noticed.

And the resulting public outrage continues unabated.

After the game Kaepernick said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

What he did seems disrepectful and unpatriotic to many Americans. And that was my initial reaction too, probably because I was taught to always stand and face the flag during the singing/playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” (And no, I was never taught to put my hand over my heart; that’s reserved for the Pledge of Allegiance.)

But my not caring for Kaepernick’s behavior is irrelevant. This is a free country with free speech guaranteed. If the man wants to remain seated for whatever reason, that’s his right. Nor do I see his action (or inaction) as an antimilitary statement. Free speech and his right to it is one of the things our military defends.

Anyway, that’s my position. To paraphrase: I may not agree with what he did but I’ll defend his right to do it.


Historical note and a surprise to me: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is not a quote from Voltaire. The words were said about him, in a 1906 biography called The Friends of Voltaire, written by Beatrice Evelyn Hall under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre.


Kaepernick remains seated during the national anthem
Kaepernick remains seated during the national anthem


17 thoughts on “I may not agree with what you say …

  1. The “hand over the heart” seems to have different meanings for different peoples. The Australian ex-servicemen & women do it to cover/hide their medals out of respect for those that died in battle and therefore were never in a position to receive any award for the battles and/or military service which they took part in or performed.

    Our politicians have started doing the hand over the heart business for no other reason than one of our Liberal Party PM’s got into the habit of doing it when he was in America on one of his many jaunts, and it’s had a copy cat effect since; and taken away from the true Australian idea of honouring those that perished in the many wars in which Australian’s fought.

        1. I like that explanation a lot better than the reason Americans do it — apparently just an arbitrary decision after the Civil War that we should all salute the same flag (in the prescribed way, which has changed several times over the years) in order to help reunify the country.

  2. By not showing proper respect to the flag, Kaepernick will be perceived as disrespecting his country and its principles. The problem is cultural, not organizational. Most people think that standing for the anthem and flag demonstrates respect for our country’s founding principles, i.e., the Constitution.

    To service personnel of every race and creed, respecting the flag and anthem has symbolized that we are one nation indivisible under the Constitution. And, by the way, it is military tradition to place the hand over the heart during the anthem or raising, lowering, or passing of the flag, and civilians are urged, but not legally required of course, to do the same.

    It occurs to me, as an example, that the reason blacks have escalated shootings in Chicago is because human beings need to feel belonging to a tribe and they are joining gangs because they do not feel a part of the nation as a whole. Whose fault is that? It is not the Chief of Police’s. He is black and he’s trying his best.

    Kaepernick is likely doing more harm than good for his cause because patriotism, like religion, is largely faith-based for most people. I can only imagine the effect of his bad example on black children who admire him for his Super Bowl appearance. He should find another way to get attention.

    1. The military, of course, is very regimented, and everyone does the same thing, in unison. Respect for the flag they defend is expected. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many of those claiming Kaepernick was making an antimilitary statement are themselves former military. The majority of Americans have not served in the military and may or may not be familiar with military tradition. (I personally have always felt that standing in silence (or singing) while facing the flag throughout the playing of the national anthem was showing respect, with hand over heart being optional.)

      Gang members have always banded together in order to feel a part of something (just as kids tend to form cliques in school or join the Greek system in college). From mostly poor neighborhoods, they feel disenfranchised and cut off from the rest of society so they, in effect, create their own. My guess is most of them would not salute the flag of the nation they feel is responsible for their situation.

      Not sure what Kaepernick thinks he’s accomplishing when most black players in the NFL are not choosing to do this.

    2. Unless the US military in America has changed it is required that ALL US Military in uniform “salute” the US Flag while it is being raised or lowered.

  3. As long as everyone understands that the government prohibition (1st constitutional amendment) against interfering with peoples freedom to speak unsavory, unpopular things doesn’t include private organizations and companies from dictating and controlling the behavior of their associates and employees.

    Two different things.

    Football players are often fined for arriving late for a team meeting. Coaches and team owners can do pretty much whatever they please when it comes to defining behavior unbecoming or contrary to the image of the franchise.

    All that said, I agree that he has the right to demonstrate in whatever way he chooses, but he also must understand that the consequences of that behavior may not be in his best long term interests.

    1. My guess is that anyone who has ever been employed understands that their boss, not the federal government, makes the rutes in that particular workplace. If they think their rights are being violated, they can always take legal action — but if they value their job, that’s probably not a wise move. I’ve not heard anything about the 49ers disciplining Kaepernick, but wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to take some action just because his behavior reflects on the team. Be interesting to see what he does at their next game …

  4. Colin,

    Sitting down on one’s ass for a couple of minutes to promote a cause of compassion regarding the oppression of people of color just doesn’t move me in the least. There’s just no sense of sacrifice that I can find in such an act. If I might suggest Colin, history has proven to show in some measure that ‘fasting’ is a much more effective way of bringing attention to one’s cause.

    I, for one, couldn’t care less whether you sit out the National Anthem or not. Makes no difference to me whatsoever and for the record, I am even a veteran. Your not this countries first disrespectful and ungrateful citizen and are sure not to be the last. And there may be many out there who think being the quarterback of an NFL football team gives you some sort of a special citizen status but again I must abstain from such inflated thoughts.

    I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s and I saw first hand the oppression and indifference suffered by the blacks which seems to be where the majority of your concern lies. I also witnessed this countries efforts to address those issues and work to eliminate those injustices beginning in earnest in the late fifties. It has been a very long 55 years but significant progress has been made by this country and it was all accomplished under the banner of the red, white and blue.

    And trust me on this one Colin, your ancestors sitting down at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store which only served whites is so much more significant in the scheme of things, at least for me, than some privileged asshole sitting out the National Anthem. You can sit them all out as far as I am concerned.

    P.S. I really think you should try fasting!

... and that's my two cents